April 23, 2004
UW-RF Student Interns for U.S. Rep. Ron Kind
By Barbara Johnson
UW-RF News Bureau
It isn't every student whose internship allows them to craft a speech that is delivered on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.
But that was one of the highlights for UW-River Falls student Marnie Burau of Lake Elmo, Minn., who interned for U.S. Rep. Ron Kind in his Washington, D.C., office during the spring semester.
The political science senior will graduate this spring after her work with the congressman.
UW-RF political science chair Tracey Gladstone-Sovell recommended the internship to Burau, noting she could be the first UW-RF student to work in the congressman's office.
Burau leaped at the opportunity. "I've always wanted to work with a Congressman in Washington D.C., so when the opportunity came up, I couldn't pass it up."
The transition from River Falls, Wis., to Washington D.C., for Burau was an exiting one. "Everyone always seems in a hurry." She found a place to live through the Washington Intern Student Housing, a program that owns historic Washington properties on Capitol Hill where interns from all over the world are housed. Her housemates come from such diverse places as Los Angeles, Calif., to South Korea.
On weekends, Burau and her housemates visited Washington, D.C., tourist attractions but said she thought she might not see everything before she left in mid-April.
"I loved being right at the center where everything's happening. You can go to the events held at the Capitol and in the city that you only hear about on CNN," said Burau.
Each day working in Kind's office was different. "The political climate of the election year makes it all the more interesting."
Congressman Ron Kind, a native of La Crosse, Wis., represents the Third Congressional district, which consists of19 western Wisconsin counties, from Platteville to the South and Rice Lake to the north. Kind holds seats on Education's Reform and 21st Century Competitiveness Subcommittees, as well as Agriculture's General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee. Kind is the senior Democratic member on the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee for the Resources committee.
"Congressman Ron Kind works really hard for the people of Wisconsin's Third Congressional District, and he is passionate about his commitment to serving them," said Burau. At first, he says, she was intimidated by working for the Congressman, but after a few days she felt more comfortable after seeing how considerate and easygoing he was in the office.
As an intern, Burau performed a variety of tasks. Her main focus was working with constituent mail. She entered the information in a database to ensure it was answered. She then researched constituent concerns and assisted the staff's legislative correspondents in preparing responses.
Kind said he appreciated Burau's contributions to his office.
"Marnie has been an important addition to our office this spring. Whether her task was answering phones, writing press releases, or conducting Capitol tours, Marnie approached each task with professionalism and enthusiasm. One of her more significant accomplishments was crafting a Floor statement for Women's History Month that recognized the proud tradition of leadership Wisconsin women had in attaining the right to vote."
Office supervisor Betsy Dunford said that most interns are assigned specific responsibilities, but in Burau's case she was given wide-ranging responsibilities because of her excellent performance in the office.
"Marnie is amazing, she is one of the most enthusiastic interns we've had in the Congressman's office," said Dunford. "She has written press releases and even speeches that the Congressman has given on the House floor."
She has also encountered famous Washington D.C. faces in the halls of her office building. She has walked beside House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, (R-Calif.) and shared an elevator with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Marnie hopes to continue working in politics, but would find it hard to move to Washington D.C. permanently. "Since being here on the East Coast, I've really discovered my love for the Midwest."
She hopes to find a job close to home working in the government or for an elected official. She is thankful for her UW-RF adviser, Gladstone-Sovell, for introducing the opportunity with the congressman, and her family for providing her the means to accomplish one of her dreams.
Kind said he was pleased that circumstances allowed Burau to intern.
"My office will miss Marnie's interest in politics and her eagerness to learn. UW-River Falls clearly sends us great interns, and we hope to have more wonderful UW-River Falls students in the future," said Kind.
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